In the year 1797 and 1798 the borders of the townships of what would become Summit County were surveyed for the first time by the Connecticut Land Company. Later, each township was responsible dividing the 5 by 5 mile square township (6X6 for Franklin and Green) into lots and sub-lots, appropriate for sale. The crew that resurveyed Range 11, town 13, later to be known as Northampton, came via Buffalo where they purchased a 15 gallon keg of French brandy. They were suppose to divide the township into 160 acre lots, but do quite possibly to the brandy, the lots ran over or under by as much as 5 to 40 acres. The final result was that there were some lots on the southern boarder that were normal width, but only a few yards deep.
Near the end of their work they ran out of said brandy. Some men went to replenish their stock, while others stayed and laid out a village on the northeastern corner of lot 26. This is near where the old Ascot race track was and the village never got any farther than the planning stages.
Northampton is now one of the seven defunct townships of Summit County, having been consumed by the cities of Akron, and Cuyahoga Falls. We will study the township of Northampton as it was before it was merged.
What would you say to a man that would move his wife and 10 children from the safety of the United States to the mountain regions of Afghanistan? That is the only modern day comparison that I can think of for Simon Prior, the man who moved his family to the area that would become Northampton Township. No roads, no communication, and the nearest neighbor was 5 miles away in Hudson. The trek to Hudson was through virgin forest and swamps, and the natives were known to be just as hostile as the terrain.
In 1802, when he made the move, the western border of the United States was the Cuyahoga River and the Portage Trail. Beyond that was Indian territory; the Prior cabin was less than 3 miles away from that boarder.
Even though, by rights, the Indians had given up the land, many would and did remain east of the Cuyahoga, living and hunting among the settlers.
That I can find, no “white man” was ever killed by an Indian in the area that would become Summit County, but that’s not to say there weren’t a few good scares (more local Indian stories to come).
When Prior brought his family to Northampton in 1802, he left his wife and young children at David Hudson’s house and commenced clearing land and building a cabin on the northeast corner of lot 25. This is the southwest corner of intersection of Chart Rd. and State/Akron-Cleveland Rd. (until recently occupied by the Ascot Motel).
Many of the accounts of the settlers that have been handed down are sketchy and sometimes contradictory. W.H. Perrin says it best in his book History of Summit County (written in 1881), “Much of its early history was never recorded, and the fact that all the early settlers are dead, transports the subject to the province of conjecture. An attempt, however, has been made to gather the prominent events of early years, with what fidelity the reader is required to determine.” He was speaking of Middlebury, but the same holds true for much of what we know, or don’t know, of those early years.
This we do know as fact, Aaron Norton was David Hudson’s brother-in-law and Norton came to Hudson’s settlement to help him build a grist mill on Tinkers Creek. In 1805, Norton dissolved his partnership with Deacon Hudson and built a mill for himself on Mud Brook in Range 11, Town 3 (Northampton). You may have driven past this mill site many times and never known it. Picture the intersection of Graham and State Rd. (near the former State Rd. Shopping Center). Just down the hill from the car wash is a bridge over Mud Brook. This is the site that for many years was a successful milling operation. Also, a distillery was built around the location of the car wash. Next time you’re getting your car washed there, walk over to the bank of the creek to observe the water falls. There are so many beautiful hidden spots in this county, and this is one of them.
When Norton built the grist mill on Mud brook, he needed help with the construction. He hired a millwright from Mass., Seth Webster. Mr. Webster enjoyed his whisky to excess, so Norton made a deal with him. If Webster would refrain from drinking while the mill was constructed, besides his pay, he would receive a bonus of 3 gallons of whisky when the mill was completed. Webster not only accepted the offer, but delivered on the promise and received the 3 gallons. Here is where the story of Seth Webster begins to differs slightly.
According to Perrin’s History of Summit County, “This promise he kept, and, on the completion of the work, took his extra allowance, and in company with a (black) man, started on foot to Canton, and stopping for the night at a camp in the woods, Webster had become crazed with whisky and called for some water. While his traveling companion had gone after it, Webster, in a fit of delirium, ran out into the woods, got lost and died. He was found the next morning. It was rumored that he had been murdered, but he undoubtedly died of delirium, and his body was covered by brush to protect it from the wolves, till he was taken back to Northampton for burial. He was the first white man buried in the township.”
Another account of the demise of Seth Webster comes from Grismer’s Akron and Summit County, “Webster kept his promise and got the three gallons. Then he departed. He went down along the creek until he found a shady spot where he would be comfortable while he did some serious thinking and drinking. He drank and thought, and drank and thought. Soon he stopped thinking and just drank. Tradition says he finished one gallon and started on the next. That was the end of Webster. Days later his body was found and buried.”
Ever meet one of those type of people who just seem to be accident-prone? Here is one more story from Norton’s Mill on Mud Brook, taken from Perrin’s History of Summit County.
“Another man by the name of Burge, from Pennsylvania, was employed as a workman on this mill, who acquired an unenviable reputation on account of the marvelous and incredible stories he was in the habit of telling. One of these was as follows: That once upon a time, he was engaged in shingling a mill on the bank of a stream. When near the ridge his foot slipped and he fell, sliding head foremost down the roof. At the eaves he caught the cornice with his hands, and turned a complete somersault through the air, and fell into the water without being harmed. Immediately after telling this, he was sent on to the rock shelf to fix a prop to the timbers of the dam, which had nearly- filled with water, and while doing this, he, by some unlucky mishap, knocked loose the fastening, when the dam gave way, and he was swept over the rocky precipice by the resistless floods, falling twenty feet into the chasm below. Those who saw him swept over supposed he would be either crushed by the timbers, killed in the fall, or drowned in the seething waters. They rushed down below to hunt for his mangled remains, and were surprised to see him crawl out with tangled, matted hair, eyes and mouth tilled with mud and sand and water dripping from his person, yet unharmed. As this seemed more strange and incredible than anything he had told, it reversed the opinion of those who thought him unreliable, and thereafter, his reputation for truthfulness improved, while he became quite a hero.”
Northampton Township was one of the most heavily populated areas in the region by Native Americans. Two groups, the Adena, and the Hopewell comprised the family know as the Mound Builders. These were pre-historic Indians, simply meaning they left no history, other than what we can piece together from the earthworks that they built. They occupied the Cuyahoga Valley from approximately 1000 B.C. to 700 A.D.
Within the limits of Northampton Township, 6 of their burial mounds can be found. You can (I have) walk and drive right past these mounds without knowing what they are. They have been overgrown with trees and in years past, before much care was taken to preserve these sacred sites, many were partially destroyed for the convenience of settlers, farmers, and road and rail builders. They have only been saved from further destruction since the National Park has taken over. These are not the shapeful (is that a word?) mounds that are found in southern Ohio (i.e. the Serpent and Alligator mounds) , but rather just round or oval embankments. The largest is the Star mound (about 100′ wide). Not named for its shape, but for the stars that were found on the pottery that were in and around the mound. It is located on the southwest corner of Bath and Riverview Roads. The Native Americans that were here when the settlers came had many villages in Northampton. One of the most visible, permanent (walled) Indian villages was on a plateau across Riverview Road from Bolanz Rd. (Stand in Szalay’s parking lot looking west at the high wooded area).
There are many other burial mounds and earthworks throughout the Cuyahoga Valley. Research on your own and go find them. You can be “Indiana Jones” right here at home.